TEDxToledo conference to spread concepts of ‘human experience’Written by Danielle Stanton | | firstname.lastname@example.org
A group of speakers is preparing to give the “talk of their lives” in 18 minutes or less.
What they will talk about at the third annual TEDxToledo is being closely guarded for the first time in the event’s history, however, and will not be revealed until they appear on stage.
TEDxToledo organizer Will Lucas is keeping this year’s specific topics under wraps and will not disclose what audience members can expect at the daylong conference Sept. 18.
“We don’t reveal the subject matter of the talk until they’re on stage,” Lucas said. “Our goal, in an effort to continue to keep getting better, is to give people a chance to come and witness the event without any preconceived ideals. Come open and ready to learn and share.”
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Lucas organized the first TEDxToledo in 2012 with the theme “You Will Do Better.” In 2013, the idea of improving the city continued with the theme “reIMAGINE.”
This year, the roster of 17 speakers will give talks on the theme “Human: Exploring the many dynamics of the human experience.” To view a listing of the speakers, go to www.tedxtoledo.com.
TEDxToledo is the local version of the international TED talks. The acronym stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. TED is a nonprofit dedicated to spreading ideas in the form of short talks (18 minutes or less). Beginning in 1984 as a conference, today it covers a wide range of topics from science to business to global issues, according to its website.
“TED is … committed to ‘Ideas Worth Spreading,’” said Susan Zimmerman, executive assistant to TED’s curator in New York and a former Toledoan. “Those ideas vary in just about every way imaginable and can be seen in the most far-reaching corners of the globe, from the high-tech Vancouver stage of TED2014 to a chalkboard in a one-room hut in Malawi. … Our goal: to spark conversation, action and learning.”
The conference is a chance to bring people together and form connections, Lucas said.
“TED and TEDx events are the only places I know in the world where you can go to a conference and see a CEO sitting next to a farmer, and they are talking about the same thing,” he said. “For a moment in time, they are pushed in the same direction.”
Lucas and his organizing partners, Sam Melden and Molly Luetke, who started planning the event in December, decided to do something different this year based on advice from the international TED organization on ways to enhance their TEDx.
In the past, they normally would find speakers and then decide the topics of the talks. For this year’s event, they narrowed down the topics and then went in search of speakers.
“It kind of changed the way we thought. That has really enhanced it this year, “ Luetke said. “Our biggest challenge was to come up with topics. We wanted new and interesting ideas. Part of the problem was coming up with a subject that hasn’t been done before.”
That’s why organizers brought in another group of about eight people who could help identify topics and find speakers. The group gave great input and fresh ideas, Luetke said, giving organizers a conference with speakers who don’t resemble what would be considered a usual TEDxToledo event.
The speakers — seven women and 10 men — come from a broad range of professions and backgrounds.
There are professors, doctors, artists, a CEO and a mom.
“I’m super excited about the line-up and I think that they are people who do wonderful things in the community, but who are not necessarily people who have a platform on a daily basis,” Luetke said.
“Not everyone will agree with the idea the person has, but that makes for interesting conversation. We’re just hoping it causes further conversation and that’s what TED is all about. I think our speakers this year will really challenge folks.”
TED talks have a reputation for being cutting edge and thought-provoking.
“I’m more excited about these speakers than in the first two years combined and that doesn’t take away from the first two years,” Lucas said.
Maara Fink, clinical professor of law at the University of Toledo, is one of the speakers at this year’s TEDxToledo. According to TEDxToledo guidelines, Fink could not divulge any information on the topic she plans to discuss, but said she was honored the organizers chose her.
“I hadn’t necessarily thought I would ever be able to be a part of [TEDxToledo] but was certainly honored to have been asked and it was through a wonderful group of folks who put this panel together that felt that I might have something to contribute,” she said.
She knows not everyone will agree with her ideas or see things from her perspective, but she hopes to nudge people’s minds in a way that will allow them to see things in a different light, she said.
“We all think our ideas are interesting and unique and, for me, [the goal is] to define them in a way that’s interesting for a diverse audience and you hope you touch each audience member in some way,” she said.
Organizers selected the theme “Human” was selected after picking out particular topics they wanted to hear.
“I realized that all our ideas for talks seemed to hover around the idea of the human experience, and the name ‘Human’ just came to me during our organizer meeting,” Lucas said.
Back in 2011, Lucas got the idea to organize a TEDx event in Toledo after watching a video of Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford University commencement address, which was linked to the TED website.
At the time, Lucas, with his technology background, felt frustrated by the lack of a technology community in Toledo.
“I was tired of it,” he said. “[I thought] if I can bring that type of energy to Toledo it would raise the level of conversation. That’s why I got involved in it.”
This year’s budget from donations and sponsors is $10,000. That money will pay for the event facility, videographers and other expenses, Lucas said. The event is nonprofit, so all money from ticket sales will go toward the event or be donated.
Last year, money raised was donated to the Young Men and Women of Excellence program at Toledo Public Schools. Speakers are not paid.
Speaker Eugenio Mollo, a local attorney, called the process of developing a TEDxToledo talk “challenging.”
As speakers develop their talks, they meet with a TEDxToledo curation committee made up of a marketing representative and theater representative, among others, Mollo said. Each critiqued parts of his speech and give him pointers on how to speak more effectively.
“There’s a lot of support and practice and there’s a lot of effort that goes on behind the scenes of a TEDx,” he said.
As an attorney, most of Mollo’s public speaking experience has come in a courtroom.
“A lot of people think, ‘You’re a lawyer and this comes naturally for you,’ but this is a different environment,” Mollo said. “It’s a different audience and a different presentation style.”
Dr. Matt Roth, a primary care practitioner and physician for the Toledo Walleye hockey team, said he doesn’t necessarily consider himself an expert on any given topic, but was excited and honored to be selected as a TEDxToledo speaker. Although he couldn’t give away details of his topic, Roth said the TEDxToledo team coached him on his presentation and that the conference will be exceptional.
“We each had our individual sessions, but you arrive when the other one is finishing up so you have some overlap … so you get a little bit of a glimpse of what’s coming,” Roth said. “It definitely encourages me. All these other talks are great and they’re doing good things — a wide variety of different subjects that fall under the human emphasis.”
Tickets to the conference the first year sold out at $100 each. The second year, they were $75 with a buffet lunch included. This year, they’re $49. Organizers figured out if they don’t include lunch, they can reduce ticket prices, Lucas said. Lunch this year will be offered by local food trucks, which will offer reduced rates, he said.
If area residents find themselves hungering for TEDx talks throughout the year, they won’t have to wait until next year before Toledo hosts another one. New this year, Lucas said he has identified four “community stewards” who will oversee four “mini” TEDxToledo events to be held during the remainder of this year and into the next, Lucas said. Some of this year’s topics could become themes for the mini TEDxToledo talks.
TEDxToledo 2014 is set for 8:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the West Toledo YMCA/Start High School Theater at 2110 Tremainsville Road.
Also speaking will be Marjory Curry, Boyd White, Saga Shoffner, Diana Patton, Fritz Byers, Jennifer Rockwood, Jelani Exum, Dr. Johnathan Ross, Dan Rogers, Larry Meyer, Leslie Adams, Jason Quick, Bona Vega and Andrew Ellis.
For tickets or more information, go to www.tedxtoledo.com.
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